Digest of Socio-Ecological Union International, No14

March, 2021

Dear friends and co-fighters,

Welcome to the next issue of Positive News. Let you spread it among your friends and co-fighters in your countries and around the Earth. Please, send me the addresses of your friends and colleagues to be included in the list. I will be glad to receive and publish your positive news from the fields and offices.

Sviatoslav Zabelin, SEU coordinator

Iberian Lynx.

The idea of being able to put a price on nature is dividing opinion, but the financial value of ‘ecosystem services’ is increasingly guiding policy. More than half of global GDP – $42tn (£32tn) – depends on high-functioning biodiversity, according to the insurance firm Swiss Re. The “natural capital” that sustains human life looks set to become a trillion-dollar asset class: the cooling effect of forests, the flood prevention characteristics of wetlands, and the food production abilities of oceans understood as services with a defined financial value. Animals, too. The services of forest elephants are worth $1.75m for each animal, the International Monetary Fund’s Ralph Chamihas estimated; more than the $40,000 a poacher might get for shooting the mammal for ivory. Whales are worth slightly more at over $2m, he also estimates, due to their “startling” carbon capture potential, and therefore deserve better protection.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF of Russia) and JSC “Onezhsky LDK” signed an agreement on the conservation of ecologically valuable forests in the Arkhangelsk region with a total area of about 600,000 hectares. Under the agreement with WWF Russia, JSC Onezhsky LDK will voluntarily preserve forests of high conservation value on the territory of its lease in the Onezhsky, Severodvinsky and Priozerny forest districts of the Arkhangelsk region. The total area of forest areas where forestry activities will be restricted is about 600,000 hectares, of which logging on more than 150,000 hectares will be completely prohibited. Among them are primeval forests, called intact forest territories by scientists, where many rare species of plants and animals live. The purpose of the signed agreement is to preserve such territories.

In Onega Pomerania. Old-growth forest. Photo by Igor Shpilenok.

Cyclone Winston devastated vital coral colonies off Fiji, but five years on, the reefs are alive again, teeming with fish and colour. In the immediate aftermath of the strongest cyclone to ever make landfall in the southern hemisphere, reefs across the Namena reserve and Vatu-i-Ra conservation park off Fiji were reduced to rubble. Tropical Cyclone Winston struck Fiji on 20 February 2016, causing devastation on land and underwater. Winds of up to 280km/h claimed 44 lives, leaving more than 40,000 homes damaged or destroyed, and storm surges smashed reefs in their path. Winston caused US$1.4bn in damage, the most destructive cyclone ever in the Pacific. But four years on, to the delight of scientists, the coral reefs of the Fijian archipelago are vibrantly resurgent and once again teeming with fish and colour.

Australian conservationists on Wednesday unveiled plans to build the world’s first refuge for the platypus, to promote breeding and rehabilitation as the duck-billed mammal faces extinction due to climate change. The Taronga Conservation Society Australia and the New South Wales State government said they would build the specialist facility, mostly ponds and burrows for the semiaquatic creatures, at a zoo 391 km (243 miles) from Sydney, by 2022, which could house up to 65 platypuses. “There is so much to learn about the platypus and we know so little,” Taronga CEO Cameron Kerr told reporters. “These facilities will be critical in building our knowledge so that we don’t let this iconic creature slip off the earth.”

By 2002, the Iberian lynx was extinct in its native Portugal and down to fewer than 100 animals in Spain, well on track to becoming the first cat species to go extinct since the saber-toothed tiger 12,000 years ago. But a battery of conservation measures targeting the wide range of threats to the species has seen it bounce back from the brink, with a wild population today of around 1,000. Reintroduction of captive-bred lynx has been complemented by rewilding of historical lynx ranges, along with boosting of prey species and the creation of wildlife corridors and highway tunnels to reduce deaths from road collisions. The species is one of a handful highlighted in a study showing how targeted conservation solutions can save species from going extinct, although threats still remain, including climate change.

Conservationists are elated as a rare species of Smooth-coated otter has been sighted at the Uppalapadu Bird Sanctuary, near Guntur, India. The sight of otters peering their head above the water, and swimming has caught the attention of forest department watchers, who say that the water tank is able to hold more species and helps in the conservation efforts. Known by its binomial name Lutrogale perspicillate, the mammal is listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List since the year 1996. “We are delighted to see otters in Uppalapadu and its sighting is a testimony to the conservation efforts at the sanctuary for over 30 years. Otters feed on juvenile birds, reptiles like snakes, etc., and help in preserving the balance in ecosystem,” said District Forest Officer, Guntur, M. Siva Prasad. The Uppalapadu Bird Sanctuary, located at about 20 km from Guntur, has evolved over the years and is often touted as a shining example of human coexistence with the migratory birds, is home to about 12,000 birds — mostly, spot-billed pelicans and painted storks, which have made the water tank spread over four acres their home after arriving during the nesting season beginning in September-October. There are others too, spot billed duck, darter, black headed ibis and open billed storks, all of them local migratory birds.

The Port of Tallinn has entered into a renewable energy purchase agreement with local energy group Eesti Energia and now consumes only green electricity produced in Estonia.

Under the deal, Eesti Energia will supply Port of Tallinn with 10 GWh of renewable electricity during 2021 for the port’s own use. This leaves a total of almost 7,000 tons of CO2 unreleased in the air per year. According to Ellen Kaasik, Head of the Quality and Environmental Management Department at Port of Tallinn, the port has consistently contributed to its business and development in order to reduce the negative impact of its activities on the environment.

“Energy efficiency and greater use of renewable energy sources are an important step in reducing the port’s ecological footprint and achieving climate neutrality,” Kaasik noted.

“Port of Tallinn is a progressive and responsible company, which is an example for many major companies with its consistent activities. We are pleased to see that they have taken the next step towards a cleaner future,” Dajana Tiitsaar, Estonian Market Manager at Eesti Energia.

In the Ecuadoran Amazon, at least 447 flares have been burning gas for decades. Local communities say these flares are responsible for the high cancer rates in the area. In January, the Sucumbíos Provincial Court ruled in favor of the petition filed by Jurado, Leonela Moncayo and seven other girls, and ordered that the flares be shut down. But getting to this point wasn’t easy. (Read the report in Spanish here: “Apaguen los mecheros”: niñas acuden a la justicia para frenar la quema de gas en la Amazonía de Ecuador) The full story

Forests and Wildlife in Central Asia

Tien-Shan Birch in Western Tien-Shan Mountains in Uzbekistan.

The World Wildlife Day (March 3) this year highlights the role of forests for the livelihood of humanity. UN celebrates this day under the theme: “Forest and Livelihoods: Sustaining people and planet”. Forests in Central Asia occupy only a small part of the territory but play an enormous role in providing multiple ecosystem services and not only for local communities. First of all, forests regulate climate and water cycles, ensure food, fibers, and habitats for people and abundant wildlife. Forest have cultural and spiritual values. They serve as recreational places. One of the most important roles of the forests, especially in the mountains, is relevant to the allocation of space for evolutionary processes. The richest and diverse fauna and flora are presented in the forests.

Forests play a crucial role in Central Asia. Their loss impacts wildlife and human livelihoods.

In 2003, forests in Kyrgyzstan covered area in 769.5 thousand ha, including coniferous forests 280.1 thousand ha, hardwood forest 34,400 ha (ash, maple, elm), softwood (birch, poplar, willow) 14,100 ha, others 98,300 ha (walnut, apple-tree, almond, apricot); shrubs 342,6 ha (Forests of Kyrgyzstan, 2003). In 2010, forests in Kyrgyzstan covered 1,123,200 ha or 5.6% of the total area of the country (FAO, 2010). According to the assessment prepared by UNECE-FAO in 2018 (Tsevs, 2018), 160,000 ha of forest were lost in Kyrgyzstan in the last 50 years. The total forest area in 2015 was 637,000 ha or 3.2% from the country’s area, including 590,000 ha primary forest and 47,000 ha planted forest (UNECE & FAO, 2019).

In the past (about 100 years ago), forests in Tajikistan covered about 25% of the country. However, many areas were cut off for the development of agriculture. In 2010, forests occupied around 410,000 ha (Kirchhoff & Fabian, 2010), but the statistic of forest dynamics were complicated due to lack of adequate data management. The total forest area (assessment of 2015) is evaluated in 412,000 ha or 2.9% of the country’s territory, including 297,000 primary forests, 103,000 ha planted forest, and 12,000 ha naturally regenerated forest (UNECE & FAO, 2019).  

The percentage of forest land in Uzbekistan is 7.3% (UNECE, 2015). At present, the total area of the State Forest Fund is 11,196.2 thousand ha or 25.2% of the total land area, including 7.2% of forest land (trees and shrubs). The State Forest Fund is comprised of desert land (81%), mountain lands (16%), valleys (2%), and tugai or river gallery forests (1%).  According to law, forests in Uzbekistan are state property and national wealth. All forests are an integral part of the State Forest Fund, except for protective planting, forest belts, urban forests, trees on farmland, and gardens. According to NBSAP (2015), desert and tugai are most degraded and need urgent recovery measures. The agroforestry (walnut, pistachio, almond, and fruit) planting partly compensates for the degradation of mountain forests. However, it is not enough for the recovery of lost forested areas.

Forests provide habitats for many animal species. The diversity of species and subspecies is the most rich in mountains and river valleys. Many species are “least concern” and can be found during short visits to forested areas. However, many species (especially large birds and mammals, beautiful butterflies) are rare and threatened and included in the national red lists and red books. Examples of local communities involved in conservation gave positive results in many countries. The most striking such examples are in Tajikistan, where many charismatic large mammal species recovered last decades due to community participation in protection and benefit sharing.

Flora is very rich in the region, and especially in the mountain areas and in the mountain forests. Only around Issyk-Kul Lake in Kyrgyzstan, the plant diversity is evaluated in 1,500 – 1,800 species. The plant diversity in the region is more than 5,000 species. And, in particular, due to this fact, the region is evaluated as one of the biodiversity hot-spots: The Mountains of Central Asia.

The conservation and recovery of species and ecosystems are results of the cooperation between state agencies and civil society: environmental NGOs, grassroot groups and academia.

Used Literature:

FAO, 2010. Capacity building for National Forest and Tree Resource Assessment and Monitoring in Kyrgzystan, Report, 19 p.

Kirchhoff & Fabian. (2010). Forestry sector analysis of the Republic of Tajikistan. GTZ/DED/CIM Regional Program “Sustainable use of natural resources in Central Asia”. Dushanbe, 2010. 56 p.

UNECE & FAO. (2019). Forest landscape restoration in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Paper 72, 66 p.

Used images are from author’s archive.

Digest of Socio-Ecological Union International

February 09, 2021. №9

Dear friends and co-fighters,

Welcome to the next issue of Positive News. Let you spread it among your friends and co-fighters in your countries and around the Earth. I will be glad to receive and publish your positive news from the fields and offices.

Sviatoslav Zabelin, SEU coordinator

Three court decisions – three incredible precedents.

The Court of Appeal in The Hague has ruled in favour of Milieudefensie / Friends of the Earth Netherlands and four Nigerians on most points in an oil pollution case that was first brought against Shell in 2008. Shell Nigeria in particular is liable for oil pollution at three locations in the Niger Delta, but according to the court, the parent company Royal Dutch Shell also violated its duty of care. Three of the four Nigerian plaintiffs and their fellow villagers must now be compensated for the damage caused and Shell must ensure that there is a leakage detection system in the pipelines in Nigeria. It is the first time that a court has held a Dutch transnational corporation accountable for its duty of care abroad. For decades, millions of people living in the Niger Delta have been suffering the consequences of large-scale oil pollution. Every year, 16,000 babies die as a result of pollution, and life expectancy in the Delta is ten years less than in the rest of Nigeria. Friends of the Earth Netherlands’ lawsuit revolves around pollution from leaks of Shell oil in three villages, which has rendered local people’s fields and fish ponds unusable. The leaked oil was never thoroughly cleaned up and new oil is still leaking out regularly.

The Paris Administrative Court ruled in favor of plaintiffs, including Greenpeace France, in a landmark case acknowledging the responsibility of the French State for the climate crisis. 

Executive director of Greenpeace France Jean-François Julliard said in response: 

“Let’s be frank: this is an historic win for climate justice. A French judge has ruled that climate inaction of the French State is illegal. This decision not only takes into consideration what scientists say and what people want from French public policies, but it should also inspire people all over the world to hold their governments accountable for climate change in their own courts. For governments the writing is on the wall: climate justice doesn’t care about speeches and empty promises, but about facts! This story is not over, we will use this decision as a crucial first step in pushing our scientifically-grounded arguments and get the court in the coming months to order the French State to act against the climate emergency. No more blablas!
Why is it historic?

  • It’s the first time the State’s responsibility in the climate crisis, because of its lack of action, is acknowledged by French justice.
  • It’s a victory of truth over the denial of the State, who has relentlessly claimed its actions are sufficient, despite evidence (GHG emissions consistently over carbon ceilings, reports from the High Council for the Climate, etc.). Today justice sides with all those who have been warning about the climate crisis for decades.
  • The recognition of the State’s fault and responsibility is a crucial step to obtain a court order forcing the State to act.

In a ruling believed to be the first of its kind in France, the appeals court in Bordeaux overturned an expulsion order against the 40-year-old man because he would face “a worsening of his respiratory pathology due to air pollution” in his country of origin. A Bangladeshi man with asthma has avoided deportation from France after his lawyer argued that he risked a severe deterioration in his condition, and possibly premature death, due to the dangerous levels of pollution in his homeland. “To my knowledge, this is the first time a French court has applied the environment as one of its criteria in such a case,” the unnamed man’s lawyer, Ludovic Rivière, said. “It decided my client’s life would be endangered by the air quality in Bangladesh.”

Other positive news.

The UK crane population has soared, a census found. Their courtship dances have inspired ballets, while some cultures worshipped them as gods. Now cranes are soaring again in the UK, some 400 years after they were wiped out by hunters. A census published this week revealed that 23 crane chicks were born in the UK last year, pushing the national population past the 200 milestone. The birds returned to Norfolk in the 1970s under their own steam and have spread to Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Somerset thanks to ongoing efforts to restore their wetland habitats.

“The return of cranes to the British landscape shows just how resilient nature can be when given the chance,” said Damon Bridge, chair of the UK Crane Working Group. “If we want to see this success continue then [the] sites that cranes use and need must get adequate protection.”

Common Crane (Grus grus). Photo by Andreas Trepte/ Creative Commons

Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and the world’s oldest known, banded wild bird, hatched a new chick this week at Midway Atoll. Biologists first observed the egg pipping on Friday, January 29. After several days, the chick hatched on Monday, February 1. Every year, millions of albatrosses return to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial. Beginning in October, birds return to their same nesting site and reunite with their mate in the world’s largest colony of albatrosses. Wisdom and her mate, Akeakamai, have been hatching and raising chicks together since at least 2012 when biologists first banded Akeakamai. “At least 70 years old, we believe Wisdom has had other mates,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Dr. Beth Flint. “Though albatross mate for life, they may find new partners if necessary — for example, if they outlive their first mate.”

Wisdom’s newest chick shortly after hatching, with its Dad, Akeakamai. Photo credit: John Brack/ Friends of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge

Cambodian authorities on Monday released five environmental activists after they were detained for three days for protesting against illegal logging inside one of the country’s biggest wildlife sanctuaries. The five, including Ouch Leng, a 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize winner, were detained by rangers on Friday for being inside the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary without permission, Environment Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said. The Kratie Provincial Court court had released the five who signed an agreement not to enter restricted areas without permission, Neth Pheaktra said. A case has also been filed against Ouch Leng’s Cambodian Human Rights Task Force for not being registered with the Interior Ministry, he said. The begging of history. On Friday afternoon Kratie provincial environment officers reportedly arrested prominent environmental activist Ouch Leng along with Heng Sros, Men Math, Heng Run and Choup Cheang. They are being detained at the Kratie city police station, according to Soeng Senkaruna, spokesperson for human rights group Adhoc, as reported by VOD.

Mr. Leng Ouch. Courtesy of the Goldman Prize

Digest of Socio-Ecological Union, February 5

Dear friends and co-fighters,

Welcome to the next issue of Positive News. Let you spread it among your friends and co-fighters in your countries and around the Earth. I will be glad to receive and publish your positive news from the fields and offices.

Sviatoslav Zabelin, SEU coordinator

North Atlantic whales

Biodiversity: North Atlantic Right Whales (Eubalaena glacialis) are in serious trouble, but there is hope. A total of 14 new calves of this Critically Endangered species has been spotted this winter between Florida and North Carolina. The 14th latest calf of the season was spotted Thursday off of Florida’s Amelia Island, News4JAX reported. “What a way to start the weekend – a new right whale!” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Southeast announced on Twitter.

Calf number 14th was born by a 12-year-old female named Champagne and it is her first known calf, the agency said. The news came just two days after the 13th calf of the season was spotted off of Wassaw Island, Georgia, News4JAX reported. This baby was also born to a first-time mom who was 14 years old. All of this is good news for the species, which ended 2020 on a low note. An NOAA report highlighted that there were no more than 366 of the animals left alive. Then, the first known calf of the season washed up dead off the North Carolina coast in November.

12-year-old whale named Champagne and her first-known calf. Photo credit: @GeorgiaWild, under NOAA permit #20556.

An investment group of Swedish retail giant Ikea has acquired forestland in southeast Georgia to protect the land and its diverse ecosystems from development. The Ingka Group, which owns and operates most Ikea stores, purchased 10,840 acres of land near the Altamaha River Basin, the company announced on January 14.”We truly believe responsible forest management is possible and we see that a large part of our responsibility towards the land we own — and by extension the planet — is to restore forests and plant more than we harvest,” Ingka Investments managing director Krister Mattsson told CNN. “In all our properties nature conservation is important. In this particular US investment in Georgia, first, it is important that the land cannot be broken up into small units and it remains forever forestland. “The land, acquired from non-profit conservation organization The Conservation Fund, is home to more than 350 plant and wildlife species — including the endangered longleaf pine and gopher tortoise — which are now protected.

The grey steel girders of Platform Holly rise 235ft (72m) above the waters of the Pacific Ocean, just a couple of miles off the Santa Barbara coast. Above the water, this decommissioned oil rig is dull and lifeless, but the view below the surface is very different. Beneath the waves, colorful fish, crabs, starfish, and mussels congregate on the huge steel pylons, which stretch for more than 400ft (120m) to the ocean floor. There are more than 12,000 offshore oil and gas platforms worldwide. As they drain their reservoirs of fossil fuels below the sea, they eventually become defunct when they produce too little fuel for extraction to be profitable to their operators. The big question is what to do with these enormous structures when fossil fuels stop flowing. With curbing climate change rising up the international agenda, and with some questioning whether we have already passed peak oil, hastened by the coronavirus pandemic, the number of defunct rigs in the ocean is set to get bigger. Removing them from the water is incredibly expensive and labor-intensive. Allowing them to rust and fall into disrepair is an environmental risk that could seriously damage marine ecosystems.

For some species, offshore rigs are even better nurseries than natural reefs. The towering pylons are the perfect spawning grounds for tiny fish larvae. But there is one way in which these old rigs can be remarkably useful: the subsurface rig provides the ideal skeleton for coral reefs. Teeming with fish and other wildlife offshore rigs like Platform Holly are in fact the most bountiful human-made marine habitats in the world: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210126-the-richest-human-made-marine-habitats-in-the-world

In 188 km from Arkhangelsk, Russia not far from the Golubinsly karst massif, a cultural and landscape park has been developed on the place of a bankrupt campsite. The park is maintained by two families – Klepikov and Shestakov. “For a couple of years, we thought we were doing tourism, and then we realized that we had become big. We began to be called the point of socio-cultural development. But I always had the idea to show the nature and beauty of the Russian North,”- explained Anna Klepikovskaya. The owners followed the path of American national parks, the main idea of which is the beauty of natural places. People come here not far from amenities and luxury service, but for natural attractions. Around Pinega there are karst caves, waterfalls, and other natural beauties. “At first, most people came to us from Arkhangelsk, but since the year before last, there have been more Muscovites. Our Russian territories do not have enough ambassadors in Moscow, so my husband and I stayed in the capital. Relatives live there,” – Klepikovskaya added. Especially popular in the park is the deer festival, where thousands of people sign up: https://ecologyofrussia.ru/park-sever-tayga-proekt/.

Deer. Photo by Golubino Park.

Climate

President Joe Biden signed an order directing federal agencies to eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels on Wednesday, amid a bonanza of climate-focused executive orders. “Unlike previous administrations,” he said at a press briefing, “I don’t think the federal government should give handouts to Big Oil.” Climate activists have been waiting to hear those words for years. Fossil fuel subsidies, they argue, keep oil and gas companies in business and help them spew planet-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The problem is that not everyone agrees on what counts as a fossil fuel subsidy and what doesn’t. Subsidies aren’t blank checks from the government: They usually take the form of tax breaks, regulatory loopholes, or anything else that gives a particular industry a leg up. The estimates for the U.S. run from around $20 billion to as much as $650 billion a year, if you think fossil fuel companies should be paying the government for all the damages from their pollution. http://www.envirolink.org/2021/01/28/biden-is-canceling-fossil-fuel-subsidies-but-he-cant-end-them-all/

Climate Change Policy Simulator: C-ROADS is a free, award-winning computer simulator that helps people understand the long-term climate impacts of national and regional greenhouse gas emission reductions at the global level. C-ROADS has helped the world to understand the impact of the emission reduction pledges countries proposed to the United Nations. These proposals take different forms with various reference and target years, however, using C-ROADS we can rapidly test these policies to determine whether collectively they are enough to stabilize temperature below 2°C. C-ROADS is made available for free to make insights about what it takes to address climate change more accessible. We encourage you to use C-ROADS as part of a World Climate Simulation, where a group of people plays the roles of UN climate negotiators working to create an agreement to limit global warming https://www.climateinteractive.org/tools/c-roads/

ALPS: National food system modeling, to make sense of national policy priorities.

Climate Interactive developed the Agriculture and Land Policy Simulator (ALPS) allows users see to the interactions of different policy decisions on a nation’s food system. As a national-scale model, country ministries and civil society groups can think about different development pathways to see if those policies could create their desired future. ALPS frames the importance of agriculture in the ‘Nationally Determined Contribution’ (NDCs) that countries pledged for the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change (UNFCCC, COP21). As part of that global climate change agreement, countries declared their goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. With ALPS, countries can create an interactive tool to explore their pledges to see what it would take to achieve their goal and how different policies affect the timing of reach food production and emissions targets https://www.climateinteractive.org/tools/agriculture-and-land-policy-simulator-alps/.

Digest of Socio-Ecological Union International

January 15-17

SOES Digest
Taiga in winter. Photo by Victor Solodukhin

Welcome to the next issue of Positive News. Let you spread it among your friends and co-fighters in your countries and around the Earth.

Climate change

The world may be barreling towards climate disaster but rapidly eliminating planet-heating emissions means global temperatures could stabilize within just a couple of decades, scientists say. For many years it was assumed that further global heating would be locked in for generations even if emissions were rapidly cut. Climate models run by scientists on future temperatures were based on a certain carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. If this remained at the current high level there would be runaway climate disaster, with temperatures continuing to rise even if emissions were reduced because of a lag time before greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere. But more recent understanding of the implications of getting to net-zero emissions is giving hope that the warming could be more swiftly curtailed: http://www.envirolink.org/2021/01/10/global-heating-could-stabilize-if-countries-go-net-zero-emissions-scientists-say/.

Siberia

Hundreds of thousands of hectares of virgin forest have been saved in Yakutia, according to Alexander Zhurakovsky, co-chairman of the public environmental movement “Protect the Nature of Yakutia”. Two logging companies, LLC “Woodland24” and LLC “Angara”, decided to voluntarily abandon the land plots in the Aldan district that were leased following the auction. The companies filed claims to the Arbitration Court of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) for invalidation of past auctions for the right to conclude land lease agreements in the Aldan district and the application of the consequences of the invalidity of the transaction. They indicated quite a lot of reasons for termination of contracts. The companies also filed lawsuits against the Regional Ministry of Ecology, stating that “during the auction for the right to conclude a lease agreement, the defendant provided false information about the absence of encumbrance of the forest plot.” The termination of the lease agreements of Woodland24 LLC and Angara LLC was prompted by a wide public outcry.

Siberian Taiga in fall colors

In 2021, a reserve for the reproduction of wild reindeer will appear on the territory of Yakutia. This is reported by the Ministry of Ecology of the Republic. A specially protected natural area of regional significance will be created in the Bulunsky district of the republic. It will help to preserve the breeding stock of wild reindeer of the Leno-Olenek population. The total area of the reserve will be more than 64.1 thousand hectares. According to the Ministry of Ecology, it will be placed within the Chekanovsky ridge, where the main breeding stock is concentrated (about 90%). In addition, 64 species of birds live there, and 260-280 species of higher vascular plants grow there.

“Sakhalin Ecowatch ” finally won another court in the protection of nature and indigenous peoples! As a result, the huge burial ground of Rosneft’s oil waste near the village of Val in the north of Sakhalin is finally closed. The court’s decision finally came into force. It was hard work, it took five years, and there was a lot in it – representative round tables (organized jointly with the Public Chamber of the Sakhalin Region), rallies and public hearings in the village of Val, dozens of public raids and inspections, clashes with the security of the oil burial ground, another court won in 2017 and a war with bailiffs who sabotaged the execution of its decision, one court lost by us and another ongoing court case (the oil service company filed against us and www.sakhalin.info a lawsuit for the protection of business reputation) and many other things https://social.riafan.ru/1318648-putin-zayavil-o-neobkhodimosti-mosta-na-sakhalin.

Dear friends and co-fighters, 
Welcome to the next issue of Positive News. Let you spread it among your friends and co-fighters in your countries and around the Earth. 
I will be glad to receive and publish your positive news from the fields and offices. 
Sviatoslav Zabelin, SEU coordinator
Sakhalin Island, Photo by Sergei Lyakhovets

Reforestation

Indigenous agroforestry revives profitable palm trees and the Atlantic Forest. Highly popular in Brazil because of its delicious heart, the jussara palm was eaten nearly to the brink of extinction. The Indigenous Guarani people from the the São Paulo coast are traditional consumers of jussara palm hearts, and decided to reverse the loss by planting thousands of palm trees. With more than 100,000 jussara palms planted since 2008, the community now sells hearts and seedlings to tourists and beach house owners. The next step is to start extracting the pulp from jussara berries – similar to açaí berries, the popular superfood – which the group hopes will generate enough income to keep the palm trees standing. The palms grow among native trees in an ancient and increasingly popular agricultural technique called agroforestry, which combines woody trees with shrubs, vines, and annuals, in a system that benefits wildlife, builds water tables and soil, provides food, and sequesters carbon: https://news.mongabay.com/2021/01/indigenous-agroforestry-revives-profitable-palm-trees-and-the-atlantic-forest/. acai berries

New food for humans

Yellow mealworm finger foods, smoothies, biscuits, pasta and burgers could soon be mass produced across Europe after the insect became the first to be found safe for human consumption by the EU food safety agency. The delicacies may not be advisable for everyone, however. Those with prawn and dustmite allergies are likely to suffer a reaction to the Tenebrio molitor larvae, whether eaten in powder form as part of a recipe or as a crunchy snack, perhaps dipped in chocolate. The conclusion of scientists at the EU food safety agency, following an application by the French insect-for-food production company, Agronutris, is expected to lead to EU-wide approval within months of yellow mealworm as a product fit for supermarket shelves and kitchen pantries across the continent: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/13/yellow-mealworm-safe-for-humans-to-eat-says-eu-food-safety-agency.

“Remez” Newspaper in Kazakhstan

Newsletter Remez in Kazakhstan
“Remez” or Penduline Tit that gave the name to the Newspaper . Photo by Sergey Kulagin

Kazakhstan Ornithological Society

In March 1997, in Almaty, city of Kazakhstan, the initiative group of naturalists and bird study enthusiasts established the Kazakhstan Ornithological Society (KOS). This voluntary community organization of citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan unites professional ornithologists and amateurs – bird lovers. The Society is engaged in the study, protection and sustainable use of wild and ornamental birds, as well as in public awareness campaigns and dissemination of bird conservation ideas among the citizen communities. Passion for bird studies and protection links various people – from school-children to professors, from students and laborers to businessmen and public officials. The Society currently has dozens of members from several cities in Kazakhstan, of which three quarters are amateurs. During one of the first meetings, the members of the society decided to name it “Remez” (after a Russian name of small passerine birds inhabiting woody ecosystems in Kazakhstan). Once a year, in December, the members of the Society gather for an annual general meeting, at which the chairman of the society reports on the work done. Besides, every three years the members of the society organize the new election meeting with reports of the members of board about work carried out during last three years. Many Almaty members of the KOS meet at the “Bird Market” on weekends.

Bird Fauna in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan ornithological fauna contains over 500 bird species, inhabiting various natural landscapes and occurring in deserts, steppes, forests and mountains. Some information about bird fauna of Kazakhstan can be found on the website of BirdLife International. This website says about finding of 438 bird species in Kazakhstan. However, in the book of the well-known ornithologist Dr. Edward Gavrilov “Fauna and distribution of birds in Kazakhstan” (Almaty, 1999), 495 bird species were indicated; in his “Handbook of Birds of the Republic of Kazakhstan” (Almaty, 2000) already 512 species have been mentioned. In the “Field guide to birds of Kazakhstan” (Ryabitsev V.K., Kovshar A.F., Kovshar V.A., Berezovikov N.N., Almaty, 2014) 500 species were listed. The website “Birds of Kazakhstan” – contains the images of 520 species. It is appropriate to say that 21 new species have been found in the Republic of Kazakhstan in recent years. And the “Remez” newspapers repeatedly writes about new species, found in the Republic.

Emblem of the Kazakhstan Ornithological Society

There is no endemic bird species in Kazakhstan; however, 27 species have been listed as globally threatened by IUCN including 4 Critically Endangered, 5 Endangered and 18 Vulnerable species. Besides, 19 bird species occurring in Kazakhstan have been considered as Near-threatened at the global level.  The bird fauna of the Republic is very diverse and attracts many birdwatchers and bird amateurs to visit the country. The members of “Remez” Society gather and disseminate information about bird fauna in the republic, about interesting findings and places to visit. The emblem of the Kazakhstan Ornithological Society – Remez – was chosen not by chance. This tiny bird, a typical inhabitant of reed beds in river floodplains, is an incomparable builder. It’s amazing how, with the help of a miniature beak and paws, this small passerine weaves a cozy fist-sized nest out of plant fluff, resembling a mitten with the entrance as a thumb. Such a nest is hanging on thin branches of a willow or poplar above the water.

In spring, upon arrival, males (they arrive one – two weeks earlier than females), occupy the breeding territory and begin to build a nest. At the same time, they sing a lot, attracting females. The females join to the construction at the final stage, they are assigned the role of making an entrance pipe – corridor. Construction of nest takes about twenty days. Males do not take part in hatching the clutch, but sometimes they help in feeding the chicks. The female, laying five to seven white pea-sized eggs, incubates them for twenty days. Remez’ nests are always dry, clean and warm. On the fifteenth – twentieth day, the chicks begin to fly out of the nest, but for a long time they return to it to spend the night.

Remiz species in Kazakhstan

Three from four species from “Remiz” genus occur in Kazakhstan. These are: the Eurasian Penduline Tit (Remiz pendulinus), Black-headed or Macronix Penduline Tit (R. macronix) and White-crowned Penduline Tit (R. coronatus). The Black-headed Penduline Tit can be found only in Central Asia, showing resident patterns. In warm winters, the Black-headed and White-crowned penduline tits can be observed in the southern regions of the country.

“Remez” Electronic Newspaper

Since 2005, the KOS has been publishing the “Remez” electronic newspaper. In 2020, the hundred issues were released. The volume of the newspaper over the past fifteen years has increased from eight to twelve or fourteen pages, and starting from the hundredth issue it began to appear in color. The main headings of the newspaper include: “Interesting bird findings”, “Notes of a naturalist”, “The work of ornithologists”, “Curious facts from scientific publications of ornithologists”, “Kaleidoscope of interesting, unusual, amusing information”, “Anecdotes” and others. Remez has a lot of current bird information, including conferences and meetings, new books on bird watching, bird festivals, conservation activities, and more. The frequency of the newspaper’s publication changed from three to four issues per year to monthly in 2020. The editors of the newspaper are Valery Khrokov and Vladimir Dvoryanov.

The newspaper is written in Russian language. All issues of newspapers have been posted on the website of the Association for the Conservation Biodiversity in Kazakhstan (ACBK), in the “Library” section: www.acbk.kz E-mail of “Remez” Newspaper is vkh.remez@mail.ru. In addition to Kazakhstan, the newspaper is distributed in eight countries of near and far abroad: Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Germany, England, Canada, USA, New Zealand. The audience of readers consists of approximately 300 people. The Society is open for new members and readers.

Newsletter Remez in Kazakhstan
Dr. Valery Khrokov with several issues of Remez Newspaper

            It is impossible to tell about rich diversity of birds of Kazakhstan in one small essay, the introduction to birdwatching in Kazakhstan will be provided in another essay. Hope that we will have also chance to highlight some stories about bird observation and bird conservation issues in Kazakhstan on Holarctic Bridge platform.

The “Bird of the Year 2021” in Kyrgyzstan

The Bearded Vulture’ portrait: an adult bird. Photo by Alexander Zhdanko

The Kyrgyzstan Wildlife Conservation Society looks for support to publish the new calendar of 2021 with the new selected “Bird of the Year-2021”. The Society publishes its annual calendars with bird images since 2006. Every year the members of the Society select one species of birds occurring in Kyrgyzstan as a symbol of the year. The bird selected serves also as a symbol of conservation campaign providing by KWCS members. Calendars are free of charge. They are disseminated by KWCS among schools, public organizations, NGOs and communities that to highlight the problems of birds and other wildlife conservation in Kyrgyzstan and engage society in the conservation. 

The last 2020 calendar was published with an image of the White-browed Tit-Warbler (Leptopoecile sophia), occurring in the montane juniper forests of Kyrgyzstan. The sponsor of this calendar was a Kyrgyz Express Post, issued last year the post stamp with an image of this fluffy and bright-painted passerine.

The Bearded Vulture or Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus) was selected as a bird of 2021. The Bearded Vulture is an amazing bird inhabiting the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. The bearded vulture is a species of scavenger bird that plays a specific role in ecosystems. Birds literally feed on the bones of dead animals and their guts – bone marrow. The bearded vulture has the ability to digest bones due to the high acidity of gastric juice. This scavenger cannot completely swallow large bones, so it picks up the bones of dead animals, flies with them into the air and throws them down onto the rocks. After several such throws, the bone breaks and the bearded vulture can swallow small pieces of bones with their nutritious content. Undigested bone remains are regurgitated by bearded vulture like pellets in owls – as small bone balls. And the bone marrow allows these scavengers to receive high-calorie nutrition, ensuring their survival in the hard mountain conditions. Specialization in feeding on the bones and other remains of dead animals has determined specific biological characteristics of this species. Bearded vultures nest at the end of the winter and in early spring. In January – March, they lay one or two eggs in a nest located on the ledges of steep cliffs, usually in hard-to-reach habitats. Mostly, the female incubates eggs; she spends about two months (52-55 days) in the nest before the chicks appear. Usually only one of them survives, since it can be difficult to feed two chicks in winter. Chicks appear at the end of February – March. But in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, this is a time when the chances of finding food – the corpses and bones of dead animals – are highest.

The chick of bearded vulture is born completely naked, but quickly it overgrows with dark fluffy down, which protects it from a significant drop in day and night temperatures in the mountains. At first, caring parents do not leave the chick for a long time, warming it with their feathers and feeding it with semi-digested bone concentrate. By the end of winter – the beginning of spring, the chick is fully fledged and begins to fly out of the nest, accompanying the parents. It differs from adult birds in its very dark, almost completely black plumage. Bearded vultures glide low over the slopes of the mountains, looking out for the corpses and bones of animals killed or died in winter. They lift large bones high into the air and thrown down onto rocks to break them and gain access to internal soft content. In search of food, the bearded vultures make long flights low over the mountain slopes, precisely following montane relief.

In Kyrgyzstan, the bearded vulture is found in all large ridges of the Tien Shan and Pamir-Alai mountains. It prefers to inhabit in high-mountainous and mid-mountainous areas, often occurring in the narrow gorges with steep inaccessible wall-slopes. This is a resident bird in the mountains of Central Asia. The bearded vulture is included in the Red Book of Kyrgyzstan as a rare species. It is also included in the IUCN Red List as a Near-Threatened (NT) species. The Bearded Vulture historically occurred within the large area of mountain ranges in Eurasia and Africa. However, currently it is extinct in many past habitats. Its populations are highly fragmented and the bird is relatively rare in all remained range’ areas. There are no exact data about population numbers and current distribution of bearded vultures in Kyrgyzstan. The species is protected by law. Conservation measures should include also the protection of breeding areas and public awareness campaigns about this species among the local communities.

This autumn the Kyrgyzstan’s people fight against the new political crisis to build a more democratic state. Arising political problems masked the conservation issues. But wildlife protection is also very important for this country, where the living natural resources and biodiversity provide valuable assets to human communities. The Calendar with the Bearded Vulture as a bird of 2021 will help to the KWCS’ conservation and public awareness campaign. The Society plans to print 2000 copies, for which it is necessary to raise less than a 1000 US$. The KWCS’ members look for support from civil society and caring people. Please, help their conservation efforts with your donation. They send you a copy of our small pocket calendar and information about their conservation activities.   

Bird Migration on Mud Lake in Ottawa (Ontario, Canada)

A very common Song Sparrow near Mud Lake during fall migration

In Ottawa there is an amazing place called Mud Lake. Mud Lake is located not far from the central part of the city, close to the Ottawa River. This area is truly unusually rich in a variety of all kinds of animals: from amphibians, snakes and turtles to a remarkable diversity of mammals. The lake is also part of a protected area called the Britannia Conservation Area. It is managed by National Capital Commission (NCC).

But this territory has become special fame as a transit corridor for a great number of birds that make regular migrations from their breeding habitats in the northern forests to wintering sites in the southern hemisphere. Mud Lake is part of the Lac-Deschenes – Ottawa River Important Bird Area (IBA). This important bird area is really exceptional because it serves as a stopover place for a very intensive migration of birds nesting in the Canadian taiga, both in spring and autumn.

Throughout the year, naturalists love to visit the Mud Lake area as a place to observe many types of wildlife in a city setting. But especially many people – naturalists, birdwatchers and photographers – gather here during the periods of bird migration: in spring – from April to early June, and in autumn from mid-August to October. Thousands of naturalists come to Mud Lake to watch one of the most amazing natural phenomena – the seasonal bird migration.  

Now one of the migration peaks of small passerine birds is observed – when long-distant neotropical migrants which fly from the northern forests into the jungles of Central and South America to spend time there, when the northern forests will be covered with winter frosts and sheltered with dense snowdrifts. Migratory birds have not yet molted and wear unsightly faded plumage, but some of them are already sporting mating attire.

The small ridge separating the lake from the Ottawa River is exactly where many waves of migrating birds stop. For an hour of observation, on some days, you can see from 30-40 to 70-90 bird species. The birds hide and feed in the bushes growing on the slopes of the ridge that rolling to the banks of the Ottawa River, in the crowns of tall trees, as well as among the needles of pines, firs and spruce trees growing around the lake. There are especially many birds after rains and winds, when harsh weather push brave migrants wait out the bad conditions in the bushes. Birds are not only wait they inspect all vegetation around searching for diverse insects and other invertebrates hidden in the branches and under the bark of trees.

Every naturalist will be “rewarded” with unique moments of observation of migratory species, gathered in one place… Hurry up to say goodbye to the brave passengers flying away for the winter and wish them all to come back to their breeding grounds in spring …

Burnt Lands near Ottawa

Burnt Land alvar

If you are driving from Ottawa to the west in the direction of Almonte, Ontario, taking March Rd. (Regional Road #49), you will spot the sign of Burnt Land Road at right side along the highway and fence along the road, surrounding a large piece of land, mostly empty, which is unusual in the forested areas around Ottawa. This is the Burnt Land Provincial Park with area of 516 hectares, which supports unique alvar vegetation community. Alvars have been recognized as globally vanishing ecosystems.   

The Park’s name – “Burnt Lands” – is originated from old forest fires during the time of first European settlers. However, the large patches of area with scanty vegetation formed by limestone bedrock, black in the hot summer season, could also initiate the name of the area. The Burnt Lands consists of a mosaic diverse habitats, represented by wetland and swampy area, mixed and coniferous forests and grassland meadow. The area is surrounded by developed agricultural fields and forest concessions. In spite of development around, the small patch of the open landscape can support the diversity of prairie species, including many plants and animals. The land of Burnt Provincial Park is owned by Nature Conservancy Canada and managed by Ontario Parks under a lease agreement (Brdar, 2000). It is one of protected areas identified as a Nature Reserve provincial park since 2003.

The use of the area of the Park is limited, due to fragile nature of unique habitat. There are no special facilities in the Park; it is closed for visit by large groups. There is no special parking and rare visitors usually park on the road-sides. Although some limited activities are allowed. The park is attractive for birdwatching and plant-watching by small groups of naturalists. Hikes and excursions have been sometimes organized by Ottawa Field Naturalist Club. There are no official trails in the Park, although there are some incidental trails. The information about alvar is presented in several nature-guides (Brunton, 1996; Wake, 1997). It also can be found in internet with direction link: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/canada/ontario/burnt-lands-provincial-park-trail

Alvar plant community is distinguished from surrounding landscape. It is rich with many unique species of open plains, including some rare plants. The Park provides habitat for many vascular plants, including one Globally Threatened species, three provincially rare and around 20 regionally rare species. Since spring until end of summer, the Park is attractive for plant-watchers who can find many interesting species in the area. Some of them are common in Ontario, but infrequent in Ottawa area. Others are typical only for calcareous areas or prairies. The visitors should pay attention to presence of Eastern Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans). This plant actively colonizes all appropriate habitats. It can be found abundant on the alvar and on openings in the forest areas. The Eastern Poison Ivy can burn the skin even after visit of Burnt Lands. It is recommended to change clothes after visit of the area, especially in wet morning, and thoroughly wash hands with soap. It is not recommended to visit the area with open legs to avoid severe burns.

In the end of May, the site provides opportunity to see two blooming species of lady slippers: Yellow Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum) and Rum’s head Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium arietinum) as well as other spring flowers. Later, in June and July plant-watchers can find blue eyed grass (Sisyrinchium albium), columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), hairy beardtongue (Penstomen hirsutus), spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa), milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), yellow goat’s beard (Tragopogon dubius), wood lily (Lilium phyladelphicum) and many-many others.

White-tailed deer, coyotes, skunks, American red squirrels often visit alvar grasslands and marshy forest in the Burnt Land area.  However, the area is mostly settled by diversity of bird species typical for open and forest landscapes. Birdwatchers will find in the area upland sandpiper (Bartramia longicaudata) and killdeer (Charadrius vociferus), brown thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) and eastern kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus). Several “sparrow” species nest in the area including clay-colored (Spizella pallida), grasshopper (Ammodramus svannarum), savannah (Passerculus sandwichensis) and most abundant field sparrow (Spizella pusilla). The black-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus erhytropthalmus) usually arrives later than other birds, when hairy caterpillars attack trees. The cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) is one of the common and abundant due to good harvest of creeping juniper and many other berries. More than 50 birds can be found in the area during spring morning with good conditions for bird observation.  

The best time to visit park is from the end of April until October. This time is good for naturalist hikes to observe diversity of plants and animals, which typical for alvar communities and surrounding landscapes.

The Black Grouse in Kyrgyzstan

A cock of black grouse on the lek. By Alexander Zhdanko

The Black Grouse (Lyrurus tetrix) is well known and widely distributed in the forests of Eurasia. This species usually inhabits the forest openings and edges of wooded lands, suitable for leks, where males display group dancing or courtship behaviour each spring in dusk hours (early morning), attracting females. Usually the Black Grouse is associated with large plain forests of Europe and Russia. However, it also occurs in the mountain forests of Central Asia: in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

In Kyrgyz language, the spruce grouse has a simple name: “Kara Kur” or “black hen”. The distribution of black grouse in Kyrgyzstan is limited to the Tien-Shan spruce forests of the eastern part of the Issyk-Kul Region and Chon-Kemin Mountain Range. The species is found only in few places, which are isolated from other populations of this species in Kazakhstan. It is surprising how the small populations of this species survive in Kyrgyzstan in the conditions of long-term isolation. Due to its rarity the black grouse is listed in the Red Data Book of Kyrgyzstan since 1985 and protected by law.

Habitats of Black Grouse in Kyrgyzstan. By Elena Kreuzberg

This grouse is a large resident bird of a typical “hen” or “chicken” look. Males and females differ by size and color. Males are larger and wait from 900 g to 1.5 kg; they have glossy iridescent black plumage, bright red eyebrow and white under-tail feathers. Females have camouflage plumage, helping them to stay invisible on the forest floor during hatching eggs in breeding season.

Dancing rooster. By Alexander Zhdanko

In mountains of Kyrgyzstan, the black grouses prefer to stay in spruce forests with understory of mountain ash, barberry and other shrubs. In the breeding season – since end of March until early May – males gather on edges, open meadows and glades with dispersed juniper trees, serving as lek places. At the dawn of the morning, breeding males demonstrate spectacular dances and other elements of courtship behaviour, attracting females. Usually, the leks are located in the same places every year and up to 15 males can gather together during one morning tournament. Sometimes cocks fight, sometimes they flight in the air on 1-1.5 m loudly flapping by wings. Females come to the leks for mating, attracted by specific muttering of roosters.

Only females hatch eggs and raise offspring. They build a nest on the ground under the bushes, lining it with dry grass and moss. Females lay in the nest 5-6 eggs, which they incubate 19-25 days. Chicks after hatching are covered with thick down and leave the nest after a few hours, following the female. Chicks try to re-fly already after 10 days and begin to fly in a month. Grouses feed on insects, leaves and seeds of herbs, fruits, berries. In winter they can eat needle of coniferous (spruce and juniper). The main enemies of the black grouse in the mountains are the wolf, fox, golden eagle, goshawk, as well as shepherd dogs. Small predators, magpies and crows destroy eggs and hunt chicks.   The Black Grouse enriches mountain ecosystems with its presence. In order to attract public attention to the conservation of this rare species, the Kyrgyzstan Wildlife Society declared the black grouse as the bird of the year in 2015 and issued a calendar for distribution in schools and other public places in the Issyk-Kul region. The black grouse distribution sites should undoubtedly be protected in order to preserve these amazing birds for future generations.

Calendar: Bird of the Year – 2015. By Sergei Kulagin