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.
A community on the Solomon Islands struck back against the illegal loggers that were decimating their lands.
The Story: In 2018, a Malaysian company illegally logged and degraded the forests of the Marasa community on the Solomon Islands — leading to soil erosion, polluted waters and decreased fish stocks. To protect their forests, the Marasa community gathered signatures from other villages on the Solomon Islands for an anti-logging petition and successfully appealed to the federal government to get the logging activities shut down, reported John Beck for National Geographic.
The Big Picture: Timber is the single largest export from the Solomon Islands and local communities are often paid a meager compensation for their land by large logging companies. A recent report found that many of these companies are stripping trees at 19 times the sustainable rate, drastically impacting the viability of island ecosystems — and the communities who rely on the forests for food, shelter and income.
Plastic plagues the once-pristine beaches along the southeast Hawaiian coast.
The Story: On Kamilo Beach on Hawaii’s southeastern coast, between 15 and 20 tons of plastic and waste debris wash up on shore every year, equivalent to more than 540,000 plastic water bottles, reported Liz Barney and Michelle Broder Van Dyke for The Guardian. Despite daily volunteer-based cleanups and several statewide plastic bans, this beach remains a hub of plastic waste — harming humpback whales and other Hawaiian marine life that ingest it.
The Big Picture: “Here’s the thing about the chemistry of plastic, it will never go away,” says Megan Lamson, a scientist and cleanup volunteer. Located at the center of several oceanic currents, Hawai‘i is the convergence point for plastic ocean waste that has washed in from all over the world over centuries — therefore, the only way to truly reduce the marine plastic washing up on Hawaii’s shores is to reduce plastic use worldwide.
Plants are growing at unusually high levels across the Himalayas, which could increase flooding in the region.
The Story: Researchers analyzed NASA land satellite data from 1993 to 2018 and discovered that plant life is growing and spreading across Mount Everest, likely due to increasing temperatures caused by climate change, reported Amy Woodyatt for CNN. This level of vegetation is highly unusual in the Himalayan region and scientists are emphasizing the need for more research to determine the potential ecological impacts of this rapid plant growth.
The Big Picture: "We know that plants and the water cycle are coupled," said Karen Anderson, a remote sensing scientist who led this research project. "Wherever you have plants growing, it changes the way the water cycle behaves in those areas." The unprecedented growth of vegetation in the Himalayan area could increase flooding in local communities — and impact more than 1.4 billion people who rely on water from this region.
Cover image: Himalayan mountain range, Nepal (© Rod Mast)