Traditional forestry, avian alarms, pandemic food waste: 3 stories you may have missed

© Camila Grinsztejn

Editor's Note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Conservation News shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

1. Could an innovative reforestation program help stem climate-change-fueled wildfires worldwide? 

A traditional farming technique is supporting reforestation in the Amazon — and helping to slow climate change. 

The Story: In Brazil, indigenous peoples and farmers are using the traditional technique of planting large mixtures of a variety of native seeds to restore forests in the Amazon, reported Molly Langmuir for Elle Magazine. This method could help support reforestation in areas of the Amazon that were degraded by fire in 2019, and to grow more diverse native forests, which can absorb up to 40 times more carbon than forests with a single type of tree. 

The Big Picture: A recent study found that growing more forest and restoring damaged ecosystems could remove as much as two-thirds of the carbon dioxide that humans have been putting in the air since the 1880s. Stopping deforestation is also critical to preventing future outbreaks of animal-borne diseases, experts agree. To accelerate reforestation, Conservation International will restore 28,327 hectares (70,000 acres) of forests in the Brazilian Amazon, supporting processes such as planting mixtures of native seeds to engage indigenous peoples and local communities in these efforts. 

Read more here.

In the African grasslands, a small bird with a piercing call could help save rhinos from poachers.

The Story: A recent study revealed that red-billed oxpecker birds in sub-Saharan Africa alert critically endangered black rhinos to approaching humans, reported Douglas Main for National Geographic. Red-billed oxpeckers often ride along black rhinos’ backs to find and eat ticks — and are known to release a loud call when potential predators such as humans approach them. By repeatedly approaching rhinos with and without these avian tagalongs, a group of researchers discovered that the presence of an oxpecker decreased a person’s likelihood of seeing a rhino by 40 to 50 percent. 

The Big Picture: Due in large part to poaching, black rhino populations have decreased tenfold since the 1970s, with only around 5,000 left in the wild. Experts agree that introducing red-billed oxpeckers to more areas with rhino populations could help reduce poaching incidents, especially because each additional bird riding on a rhino can increase the rhino’s ability to sense a human by 9 meters (30 feet) further away, according to the study

Read more here

Decaying food waste could release massive amounts of greenhouse gases. 

The Story: Following the closure of “non-essential” businesses in the U.S., including schools and restaurants, industrial farms are being forced to throw out massive quantities of food that will release greenhouse gases as they decay, reported Bev Banks for Scientific American. According to research by the Natural Resources Defense Council, food waste accounts for at least 2.6 percent of greenhouse gas emissions on average in the U.S. each year, and scientists warn that this unprecedented level of food waste could have an increased impact on climate change. 

The Big Picture: A 2019 UN report revealed that the world’s food system — from farming to transportation to grocery store packaging — is a top cause of deforestation, contributing approximately 30 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. As food waste skyrockets during the COVID-19 pandemic, the agricultural industry’s climate footprint could also increase. Experts are urging businesses and farmers to develop a large-scale composting system to reduce food waste and decrease emissions.  

Read more here.

News Spotlight

The best way to slow global warming? You decide in this climate simulator

Through this new modeling tool, users can test the impacts of a range of climate solutions, from reforestation to putting a tax on carbon.

To save revenue in the wake of COVID-19, cities facing economic losses are delaying projects such as sea walls that could help people adapt to the impacts of climate change.

READ MORE: Climate breakdown is here. It's time to adapt. But how?


Kiley Price is a staff writer at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates here. Donate to Conservation International here.

Cover image: Seeds mixed and prepared to planting through a traditional technique called Muvuca (© Camila Grinsztejn)

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